The Washington Post/Associated Press, March 15, 2011
Many hospitals run emergency rooms just for children. Now a few are opening ERs specially designed for seniors, without all the confusion and clamor and with a little more comfort. It's a fledgling trend, but expected to increase as the population rapidly grays. The question is whether they'll truly improve care. "Older people are not just wrinkly adults. They have totally different needs," says David John, MD, who chairs the geriatric medicine division of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Modern ERs are best equipped to handle crises like gunshot wounds or car crashes, not the lengthy detective work it can take to unravel the multiple ailments that older people tend to show up with, John says. Those older patients may not even have the same symptoms as younger people. They're less likely to report chest pain with a heart attack, for instance, complaining instead of vague symptoms such as dizziness or nausea. Urinary tract infections sometimes cause enough confusion to be mistaken for dementia.